This weekend I was busy preparing my tax records so I can take them to my tax professional next week. I don't do my own taxes. For one thing I am intimidated by this whole process. For another, I don't really know how to tackle the subject and prefer to pay an expert to assist me. Call it paying for peace of mind. Anyway, some of our 1099s did not yet arrive, so I decided to go look for copies online. I had three missing 1099s to hunt down from HSBC, ING and E*Trade.
ING made my life very simple. Logging into the account takes a second, and on the first screen there was a big button titled "Tax Forms Available Now". All I needed to do was click on that button and hit print. Done in 30 seconds.
HSBC was a nightmare. First of all, logging into the account is a pain - you need to enter two separate passwords, one using your keyboard, the other using a virtual keyboard on the screen. Idiocy. After searching the site for about 10 minutes, I still wasn't able to find the tax forms. I called the customer service number, and it took me about another 10 minutes to find my way through a byzantine maze of voice menus. After finally getting to an agent he explained to me that my troubles were because, when prompted, I entered my social security number first and my account number second. If I had done these in reverse order I would have been able to ask for an agent directly. WHAT?! Seriously? This is a known issue and rather than fix this they explain to me how to avoid their trap in the future?
I vented a little, and then asked the agent if there was an online copy of my 1099. He confirmed that there was a way to download the 1099 and directed me to my downloadable January account statement. Apparently, the 1099 is page 2 of that statement, but there is nothing on the website that tells you that this is the case.... way to hide it guys... would it kill you to put a little button on your website ING style?
Anyway, E*Trade was a solid middle. I had to search around for about 3 minutes before finding out where the form could be downloaded. Not as easy as ING but certainly not close to the HSBC nightmare.
Here's a pointer: if you are going to put together a website or a voice menu, how about using it yourself first before inflicting it on your customers? Design and customer service really do matter.
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